Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Locavore Dietitian in Nipissing village

I wanted to comment on being a locavore and eating my own food and the food raised by my neighbour farmers over the past year.  It is a lofty goal though so I will do it over a number of posts.  I have been on this path since I was seventeen years old and I am now fifty!  I was pretty happy when the practice of eating local food was popularized a year or so ago when two Vancouver journalists set out to eat only food grown within 100 miles of where they live.  They wrote of their adventures in "The 100 Mile Diet - Local Eating for Global Change."  It was a good reminder though and we saw new lingo and widespread attention in the media to to check our food odometer, reduce our carbon footprint and become a locavore?  Have you?  Will you?  Can we achieve this living in the north?

Growing your own food promotes sharing and learning.  You are quite likely going to grow more than you can manage at one time but that is also the fun of it... you can give food away!  The tomatoes shown below are ones I grew but the Calabash type ones are from Pat and Lloyd Stamp at Ashcreek Pottery.

Today's dominant, or main stream agriculture has some issues that threaten our sustainability as a people and a planet.  They rely on synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, large amounts of water, major transportation systems and factory-style practices for raising livestock and crops.  Now, more than ever, we read in the media how there are new antibiotic resistant bacteria, mad cow disease and large-scale outbreaks of potentially deadly e.coli.  Last year we saw e.coli recalls when it was found to be present in foods like spinach and strawberries.  Personally I think that the pressure at the higher levels will push BIG  agriculture and we will see improvements in how our food is being raised and marketed.  It is going to take some time though.  Most of all it will be directed by you!  You vote with your dollars every time you shop.

Talking about food from this perspective is highly political but it really has to be done.  Over the past two years I have seen huge changes in the ways that people are buying, raising and preserving foods.  There is a Victory Garden revival on the go and there seems to be no end in sight.  You can buy an eglu to raise chickens easily and hygenically in your backyard.  Our new high school in South River might be built with a greenhouse and garden plots.  Too cool for school.  Not so!

 Eating well within 100 miles (160 kilometers) will help reduce your carbon footprint.  A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide (C02) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full cycle of a product or service.

Checking your food odometer will help reduce how far food travels to greet your plate.  Use fewer food miles. 

Join the Near North Locavores who embrace the practice of eating locally.  Wikipedia says the word "locavore" was first introduced on the occasion of World Environment Day in 2005 by a group of citizens in the San Francisco area to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested from within a 100 mile radius. 

My friends Sherry and Yan down the road at the Piebird B & B say they are eating a 100 metre diet!  One they grow themselves! Local is the new organic according to David Szuki and has great power to heal and protect the planet. 

I was able to calculate my 100 mile radius .  The radius goes south to Orillia, west to the North Channel of Lake Huron and into Sudbury and the Blizzard Valley.  North it stretches up to New Liskeard and the Little Claybelt and into Ville Marie, Quebec and due east we go past South Temiskaming also in Quebec.

Why try to eat a 100 mile diet?  Well first of all you can taste the difference and discover more about what you are eating.  Fresh food is higher in nutrients - assuming you store it well.  It is also a chance to visit local farms and support and build a local food economy. Teach yourself, friends and family new skills and improve your health.  Share your food ways.  Canada is a collection of immigrants - I say that recognizing that the First Nation peoples were here first.  Wild food ways will have to be a totally different blog as the native Ojibway around where I live have a history of getting food, tea and medicine out of the bush.  I encourage you to get in touch with the seasons.  Return to the SLOW foods movement (i.e., sustainable, seasonal, local, organic and wild).

In my next post I will talk about how to access local food where we live in north eastern Ontario.  Not everyone that reads this blog is from here but the tips are transferable to where you live.

© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc
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Anthony Sepe said...

Great Post Nancy! All the food in the photo looks awesome. :)
All the best,

Timothy Fitzgerald Young said...

Nice post and good shots. I had a great tomato year too. I am an outspoken local food advocate, farmer and food processor. I support your vision, yet I'm finding a need to offer caution. While local may be the best option in most cases, there are exceptions. Studies are surfacing every day indicating that in some cases location, not proximity, brings us the most sustainable option with the smallest carbon footprint. Most studies I've read are coming from England. For example they have discovered that tomatoes shipped from Spain and lamb from New Zealand both have smaller carbon footprints than their English competition. This is because Spain and New Zealand have more conducive climates for those products. (pasture raised vs grain fed and field grown vs hot house) It would be the same if I, in Michigan, were to buy a tomato from my neighbor's hydroponic hot house in March vs one grown in a field from Florida. The Florida tomato could likely have a smaller carbon footprint than my neighbor's. The same may be true of grain fed beef within my 100 mile circle vs pasture raised beef 200 miles or more away. Of course in your case if you practice the 100 mile diet, you'd likely go without the fresh tomato in March, unless you allow for locally grown, but higher carbon indoor agriculture? Going without in the off season is something we all need to accept if sustainable food is our goal and I applaud you for your record.
The other exception I make to local is organic. I live by the premise that conventionally grown food is toxic to humans and planet whether grown next door or 1000 miles away. So I'll take the 200 mile organic strawberry over the conventional strawberry grown next door. Or I'll go without.

Thanks for raising this issue and have a fine day!

With kind regards,
Timothy Fitzgerald Young
Food For Thought

Anonymous said...

thank you for this- the near north locavores link is super duper.

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

Hi Timothy. I loved your comments. Thanks!

I don't practice an entirely 100 Mile Diet but I do like to use it for the purpose of discussion. I was inspired by Frances Moore Lappe and Diet for a Small Planet in the 70's and many other vegetarian activists. Although I am no longer a vegetarian I do eat lower on the food chain. I also eat my own food that I raise, mainly vegetables. They are organic. I eat meat and eggs raised by neighbours. They would be natural but not necessarily organic. The egg raiser buys organic feed so they probably are close to organic. And I buy organic food every 2 weeks through home delivery. So no 100% 100 Mile Diet or no 100% organic. You can see by my recipes I still use organic lemon, olive oil and coffee. I find a balance I am satisfied with. For my cooking classes I use my own food and organic foods I buy. I am not extreme and I am also too much of a gourmet to want to eat a total 100 mile diet!

Norah said...

Hi Nancy!
This is fantastic! My husband, Jim and I are very very interested in this. We have recently decided that we wanted to make a change with where we buy our meat. We have the resources….local butchers and resources for beef and poultry. We have a garden every year and can and freeze accordingly. We also are lucky to have family surrounding us and lots of land where we have family gardens and share the harvest. It really makes us feel good to be eating food that we know was grown by our two hands!

The other interesting idea is co-ops. Where you buy into a program and purchase a certain package. Then weekly you get a box based on the package you purchased with products grown locally based on what is available to harvest. An idea?

I know I can’t wait to see your next post!

Laura said...

Hi Nancy,
Just wanted to thank you for your newsletters which I have fowarded to my family and friends (hope you don't mind). I'm grateful I have found someone with the knowledge and passion for food and sustainability in this area!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy, I like your blog and this post is very interesting to me, since I live in Finland and think about locavorean diet a lot. I was just writing about these issues in my blog. At least for me the northern climate presents a big challenge with the hundred mile diet. I do preserve berries etc. by freezing them, even if I know that's quite energy consuming, since otherwise I would find my diet too restricted. To Timothy I'd like to say that the Finnish studies show also that the carbon footprint of a tomato grown in a hothouse in the winter in Finland is actually bigger than a the carbon footprint of a tomato that has been shipped from Spain. I think the best solution is to avoid tomatoes altogether in the winter.

Wishing you luck with your project!

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

The Goddess of Cake blog (Finland) is really fantastic and I am not surprised that they share a lot in common with my climate and also wild and local foods. My mother's mother was born in Helsinki so I know a bit about the culture and food. We still eat some Finnish foods.

In the winter I eat my frozen tomatoes, dried tomatoes (like sundried), canned garden salsa and tomato relishes and also canned organic tomatoes... the canned tomatoes by Utopia are grown and packed within 100 km of where I live. I agree the winter tomatoes grown in Ontario greenhouses wouldn't have a small footprint. I wonder about my own that I freeze? Not usually many of those left anyways. It is mid-November and I am just finishing my garden tomatoes. Picked green they last quite some time.